How do I develop a brand strategy? Now, we don’t get asked this all that often, however, without a brand strategy in place, you’re setting your brand up to fail.
First of all:
What is a brand strategy?
Put simply, a brand strategy is a document that encompasses exactly what your brand is about.
A well defined and developed brand strategy will touch on all aspects of your business in great detail. Your brand strategy should outline beliefs, visions, goals, and plans, that can all be achieved as your brand grows and develops.
Your brand is not;
Your logo, brand name, website, or your product. That forms part of your brand identity, which should reflect your brand strategy.
My favourite definition of branding comes from Amazon Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos:
Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.
And to control and guide that, you need to develop a brand strategy that keeps your business and brand running in the right direction.
Like anything else in life, you can get answers and start developing your brand strategy by asking the right questions.
First things first though, make sure you’ve read The Ultimate Small Business Branding Guide, as that acts as a bit of a primer for this post.
So, what are the 5 main questions should you be asking when developing your brand strategy?
What is Your Brand Mission, Brand Vision, and Brand Story?
First things first, what are you setting out to do? What is the mission, what is the vision, and why are you doing it?
This is your brand mission, vision, and story.
Without that, you’re getting nowhere fast. Every business needs a purpose, and every brand needs a mission and story. They go hand and hand.
Your brand mission statement should talk about the how. It’ll talk about how you’re going to get to where you want to be, and how you plan to make a difference.
It defines the purpose and primary objective of your brand, whilst also relating back to your customer needs.
Your brand’s mission statement should answer the question; “What do we do, and what makes us different?”
Your brand vision is something completely different. It talks about the where. Where you’re going now, and in the future.
Your brand vision’s purpose is to talk about the future, goals, and objectives for your brand. It might also list out where you want to be in several weeks, months, and years.
Needless to say, this will change as your brand grows.
Your brand’s vision statement should answer the question; “Where do we aim to be?”
Your brand story is the collection of your mission, vision, and strategy. It simply tells the story of your brand.
It helps your brand positioning and allows customers to align with you. If they’re bought into your story, they’re bought into your brand.
MailChimp tell a cheeky story, by being a “monkey” in a space viewed as boring, email marketing. By using monkey merchandise, an producing annual report designs to make your mouth water, they stand out a mile.
The brand’s image is a monkey in mailer outfit, because co-founder Chestnut would tell customers, “You’ve got a business to run; don’t code stuff that you could hire a monkey to do.”
And that’s a great story to tell. They stand out. They’re unique, and like a bit of mischief. If you’re an entrepreneur that’s looking for something different and innovate, subconsciously, you align with MailChimp.
You might not even know it, but once you see that monkey logo, and do some further digging, you’ll soon discover they’re the brand for you.
And this sounds like a MailChimp pitch, it’s not. We don’t use MailChimp here at Canny. But you can’t help but admire their brand and brand storytelling!
Your brand story should answer the question; “Why should I customers care? And why would they choose us?”
Who Are Your Brand’s Target Customers?
This is one of the most important questions you can answer when developing a brand strategy. 99% of businesses rely on customers to grow.
So who are your brand’s target customers?
When starting your business, or beginning to develop your brand, you’ll usually have a fairly strong idea about your ideal customer.
But here are a few questions to get you started;
- How old are they?
- What problems are they facing?
- Where do they live?
- What does their family structure look like?
- Where do they hang out online? (What sort of websites do they visit?)
And one of my personal favourites…
Some of the questions you can ask about your target customers might seem strange or irrelevant. But it can help you when developing your brand strategy, brand identity, website language, and more.
Let’s see how we might put this data to use;
- By knowing how old they are, you can use a visual style that will appeal. On your blog and social channels, you might also change the references you use.
- By finding out about their problems, you can craft your marketing message around the solution. It can also help you generate new ideas and product lines/things to help your customers.
- By knowing where they live, you can cite local references, play on locality, and reach out to partner with other businesses in the respected areas.
- By understanding their family structure, you can make assumptions regarding how their day looks, and market to them at different times, or through different mediums.
- By getting to know the types of website they visit, you can craft your content and strategy around that. You can check in with brand’s that appeal to them already, and take what works, leaving behind what doesn’t.
And the question about where they hang out online…
Customer personas are a key piece to any brand strategy or marketing puzzle. Without them, you’re shooting in the dark and missing opportunities left, right, and centre.
And you might think you “know” your customers – but get them documented in your brand strategy. That way, you have them to refer back to, and can also share them with others.
What Problem Does Your Brand Solve?
If your brand doesn’t solve a problem, you’re in trouble. And problem solving should be one of the key focuses in your brand strategy.
It’s easier to sell your brand off the back of problem solving. Even if what you’re selling isn’t really a massive problem, you can position your brand as though it is.
Let’s take a look at;
The Shire Bakery
They focus heavily on sprinkles, and just launched The Sprinkle Club – a subscription box model, where they ship sprinkles through customer doors every 2 months.
They’re not in the business of problem solving. Their products look pretty, and their sprinkles, well, they’re delicious.
But their website acts as “the go to place for all things related to kids baking.”
The Shire Bakery not only sell baking goods, but they sell them all in one place. You can get everything you need there. And people hate darting around the place.
From cake cases, to cake toppers, to sprinkles, to colourants, and more. The only thing you can’t get is the ingredients. However, they do also have recipes.
They understand their brand. And sure, it’s not a “real world problem solver” – but they’re offering extreme value by having everything, from the recipe, to the end product, all in one place.
Everyone knows Uber these days. They sell taxi rides across cities around the world.
But do they?
Sure, they get you from A to B. But what they’re really selling is time.
By sitting in the back of an Uber for 30 minutes across London or New York, they’re giving you time back. They’re giving you time that you’d previously be using commuting in a stuffy internet-less, phone signal proof train carriage.
Now you’re sitting in the back of a comfortable car, free to crack out your laptop, or take calls on your phone.
Uber aren’t just in the business of taxi rides, they’re in the business of time.
Problem solving – how do you do it?
Who Are Your Brand’s Competitors?
Competitors – some people loathe them – but you should learn to love them. They’re an opportunity, to learn, engage, and grow.
Like Gary Vaynerchuk says;
“You build the tallest skyscraper in the city, by working hardest, and building the tallest skyscraper. Not by burning down the other skyscrapers.
Competitors will always exist. Embrace them, don’t hate them.
By having a record of your competitors in your brand strategy document, you can keep an eye on them.
In a social media context, you can set up Hootsuite or Buffer to show all relevant tweets or Facebook posts from them.
You can look at their Instagram, and find out what they’re doing. See what works, and do something similar, or better.
Or, if you’re feeling a bit cheeky, you can bait them into a bit of social media tug of war.
American burger chain Wendy’s are always taking pot-shots at both McDonald’s and Burger King. But by doing that, they’re staying relevant, and you often here people complimenting their social media time.
Knowing who your competitors are can help your business grow.
Not only can you spy on their social, but also on their website. You can use SEO tools such as AHREfs, or, just keep visiting to see what they’re doing.
If they’re writing posts like “Our 10 Favourite Burger Recipes” – and they’re getting traction, why not write the “evil twin” post – “Our 10 Least Favourite Burger Recipes” and circulate it to their followers.
For the record:
Good relationships with you competitors can help both of your businesses grow.
At Canny, we have links with other design agencies. If we need extra help it times, we can bring them in, or make use of their freelancers. And the same goes for them.
Spy on them, talk to them, engage with them, but don’t ignore them! Competitors form a vital part of any brand strategy. Know who they are, and use them to your advantage.
How Does Your Brand Acquire It’s Customers?
We’ve talked a lot about customers, but they are vital to your brand’s success. Strong brands require people to be “bought in.”
So, how exactly are you going to acquire your customers?
Well, once you’ve developed your customer personas, you should know all about your customers and how to market to them.
If they use Facebook a lot, try Facebook marketing. If they’re in the event, food, or wedding spaces, try Pinterest. If you’re selling physical products, then a shop front might be a good thing. But you’ll need to know the right location, and again, that comes from the customer persona.
Customers are the backbone to nearly every brand strategy. Only by understanding your customers, will you know how to acquire them.
And you shouldn’t be afraid to shape your brand and brand strategy around your customers.
A lot of the questions that you should be asking about your brand, are actually about your customers. Without customers, it’s unlikely that your brand can survive.
That’s how we start talking about branding with our clients. By talking about their customers or clients first.
We’ve said it time and time again on the Canny blog, branding, and design, isn’t about your personal taste and preferences. It’s about appealing to your target customers, and proving to them that you’re the real deal in your space.
Learn about your customers, that way you can learn how to acquire more. Building brand reputation and loyalty in the process.
Conclusion: How Do I Develop a Brand Strategy?
Start off by answer the questions above. If you’ve never dug into developing a brand strategy before, then this should give you more than enough to be thinking about.
The next thing you can do is check out this great brand strategy questionnaire, which will help you dig into your brand even further.
Once you have all of the questions answered, get them into a document, and start developing thoughts and ideas around them. If you’re looking to engage with a design agency, bring the document to the table and share it with them.
Your brand strategy is a living document. It’ll change and grow, alongside your company. It should help you kickstart ideas, and answer the tricky questions when they come.
By having something to refer back to, your core goals, your mission, story, and vision, you can always ask “Is this what we set out to do? Will this help achieve our goals? Is it inline with our brand strategy?”
A brand isn’t about pretty pictures and winning websites. It’s about creating something for your team, and your customers to buy into.
What do you think? How does your brand strategy document look? Let us know in the comments below.